August 7, 2007

Rogue Wave wants to jam with you; can you come over?

It was a dark and stormy night in May (all the best stories start with dark and stormy) when I got a phone call from a friend: “Hey, I’m heading out to Rogue Wave‘s Oakland studio for a huge jam session for their new album!” Along with thirty of their friends, ranging in age from teensy to old, experienced musican to absolute novice, Rogue Wave staged a melodic cacophony for in their song “Own Your Own Home” on their newest album Asleep At Heaven’s Gate. It sounded like an insufferably cool idea to me at the time, and guess what?

It was.

ROGUE WAVE: The Making of Asleep At Heaven’s Gate

Impressions of the third studio release from this talented Bay Area band are extremely positive. This record could go huge for Rogue Wave if people have their ears on right. It is fresh and musically rich — apparently over 150 instruments were used on the album, and my ears love it.

The album has a jangle and a shimmer a la former Sub-Pop labelmates The Shins or Band of Horses, but I also find it echoing another one of my favorite records lately, The Swimmers from Philadelphia. If you recall, The Swimmers made an album centered around a short story of a man who swims home through a series of his neighbors’ suburban swimming pools, and the entire thing is rife with the feelings of floating, or sinking, or sometimes drowning. Several songs on Asleep At Heaven’s Gate evoke that for me as well.

Much of this album strikes me immediately and viscerally. Example: the first time I listened to it, I was doing sit-ups at the gym and had to keep stopping to drum along on my solar plexus (um, gym talk) to some of these potent rhythms. And while it is not unusual for me to feel like the rhythm is gonna get me, I loved the variety on this album — they experimented with everything from drumming on walls & doors to handclaps and “ass slaps” (according to their MySpace).

The album opens with a newly-rejuvenated Pat Spurgeon machine gun rat-a-tatting his healthy-kidney insides out (he got a transplant in January) on “Harmonium,” which swirls and sounds more epic than anything they’ve done that I can recall. There’s a flow to the whole album, but some standout tracks for me are “Chicago x 12″ (which features Matthew Caws of Nada Surf), the unrelenting “Phony Town,” and the alt-country inflected album closer “Cheaper Than Therapy.”

Zach Rogue says that the band was listening to a lot of Wendy Carlos while they were writing this album — she scored movies like The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. I can hear that ambient influence on songs like the infectious “Like I Needed,” which starts out just creepily enough. “Own Your Own Home” begins with the directive to the crowd heard in the video above, and ratchets up the group-clamoring and feverish strumming to a cult-like din at the end of the song. It’s a combination of celebration & “bust out the grape Kool-Aid.” I love it.

Asleep At Heaven’s Gate is out September 18th on the fine little Brushfire Records label, and they’ll be touring in support of it this fall (some shows with none other than the fabulous Feist).

TUNES: Since I’ll be drawn and quartered if I post any of the new goodness from Rogue Wave, I’ll have to go with some of the old goodness. This is a nice little set from one of my favorite record stores, the warehouse/Mecca of Amoeba Records on Haight in San Francisco:

Live @ Amoeba Records, 1/21/06
Are You On My Side
Bird On A Wire
Sewn Up
Odorono (The Who cover)
Publish My Love
Endless Shovel
Love’s Lost Guarantee



  • Can’t wait to hear this one!!!

    Eric — August 7, 2007 @ 7:00 pm

  • I love the lyric, “It comes like a Kennedy curse”. Great experimental music…almost reminds me of a band in the early 90′s called Kitchens of Distinction from South London.

    Chad — August 8, 2007 @ 7:35 am

  • Another 2 reasons to adore this blog. First off, I must have missed the post on the Swimmers the first time around, but I just streamed the album and it sounds really great. I’m glad you linked back to it in this post.

    Secondly, I’ve seen a couple of posts both here and at iGIF about Rogue Wave, but the Amoeba set is the first thing I’ve actually downloaded, and even though I have a fairly low tolerance for live recordings (the muddy sound gets me), I’m definitely going to have to go check out their records. Their sound is pretty much right up my alley. Very very cool.

    Lauren — August 9, 2007 @ 7:35 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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